Already these mornings are dark when I make my first cup of tea of the day.

There goes another Summer.

This week I even held my hands over the stove to warm them up while I waited for the water to boil — first time since last April. And I automatically put on a fleece when I head out to the backyard to give the wild cats their breakfast.

Yes, that’s the Sumer of 2012 behind you already.

I have a sudden craving for hot soups and thick blankets and new notebooks. Yes, those are the signs of Fall alright.

Top Cat on the shore of the Long Island Sound on the last Sunday of Summer

That’s the last we’ll see of lazy sunsets until the next Equinox. From here on, sundown means business:

The skyline of Manhattan across the Long Island Sound. To the far right: The Empire State Building; to the far left, the Freedom Tower, 104 stories above Ground Zero.

Get yourself squared away and tucked up for Winter! Projects! It’s time to set some goals, make some self-improving agendas to get us through the dark days ahead!

 Or you could do as I do, and just make sure there’s a case of champagne ready to set out, bottle by bottle, in all those lovely Winter snowdrifts to come.

But whoa, I’m getting ahead of myself. There’s still plenty of work to be done before we can knock off for our longWinter nap. I, for one, have a Key West garden to paint (continued from last week).

As you know, Key West is lousy with two things: cats, and sunsets. So whatever you paint in Key West has to have a sunset:

HUGE — this sunset is HUGE: 12 x 18 inches (two-page spread)

Painting the ocean was a bit trickier, but with practice…

Try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try again.

…I finally felt ready to commit:

So far so good

Now all I had to do was not screw up the beach. Which I did…I painted such an ugly grove of beach trees (not palms — Australian Pines) that I can not even show you, it’s that ugly. So here’s how I salvaged this illustration:

Smoooooth moves

I simply painted a new verso side of my two-page spread, and then painted in ONE silhouette of an Australian Pine:

I’m like a secret agent, with license to cheat!

When you see this illustration all cropped and tidy in my Damn Garden Book, you will never even suspect that it’s a “marriage” of two separate paintings. And that, my dear readers,  is how you finesse it when you are too ham-handed to paint a grove of Australian Pines on a Key West beach. (And I actually improved the coastline with that fixer-upper painting, IMO.)

Did I hear someone say “That Vivian! She’s like a 007 of the art world!!”

Christie’s London has sent me their spiffy fat catalog of their upcoming James Bond sales on Sept. 28 and Oct. 5. I guess I’m on their radar for Hollywood collectibles because of the bidding war I waged for one  of Elizabeth Taylor’s fabulous caftans at her estate sale in New York last year (read all about that here).

Posters

There’s memorabilia and movie props from every Bond movie for sale, from Sean Connery…

Sunglasses from Quantum Solace, $3,000 – 4500. You should see Lot 49: Daniel Craig’s swim trunks!

…to Daniel Craig. There’s Bond cars, Bond tuxedos, Bond hotel mementos, Bond Girl frocks, etc. Here’s the thing: because I am a VIP, I was able to get another copy (rare in the US) of this cool catalog FOR YOUSE.  I expect that this catalog, like the sales catalogs for the estates of Elizabeth Taylor; and Barbra Streisand and Frank Sinatra (in both of which yours truly played a bit part as Faberge expert and horologist at Christie’s…I could tell you stories), Diana Princess of Wales (private showing of her gowns that went on sale just a few moths before her tragic death) etc. will become a collector’s item in itself.

So if there is anyone out there in Vivianworld who would like to have a 50 Years of James Bond The Auction catalog ($50 value), please leave a Comment below (or, leave a Comment even if you don’t dream of owning Daniel’s Craig’s swim trunks). I will leave this offer open until Wednesday, Sept. 26 to give every reader a fair shot, and then Top Cat will pick the winner at random from those of you darlings who have volunteered to give this book a good home. We will notify you then, to get your mailing address.

And until next week, when we will all be in Full Fall Mode, I hope you’ll all take the opportunity to wave good-bye to the last Summer sunset of 2012.

Another sign of Fall: Top Cat and I have already begun our Fall/Winter/Spring argument about whether it’s too cold in the house or OK just as is DON’T TOUCH THAT THERMOSTAT.

 

 

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Since the world revolves around me, let me say that there are two kinds of readers in the world: Those who read my first book first

Scenes from When Wanderers Cease to Roam

…and think that When Wanderers Cease to Roam is the kind of book I should always write…

More scenes from When Wanderers Cease to Roam

…and those who read my second book first

Scenes from Le Road Trip

…and think Le Road Trip isn’t as bad as the first kind of reader thinks it is.

More scenes from Le Road Trip

Either way,  you readers are committed to books in a way that I totally understand. You depend on books to help you furnish a richly appointed inner life.

My lovely reader Janet B. puts both my first and second books to good use.

 

Now, I have heard from readers who read my first book first that my second book suffers by comparison, in that Le Road Trip is not as free-ranging a narrative as the one they enjoyed in When Wanderers Cease to Roam.

First things first, you know, in this book my first priority was France.

The most delightful criticism I have read, so far, from a reader who read this second book first (and obviously did not know what she was in for) is that half-way though Le Road Trip she got tired of all the cats, already.

I rarely burst out laughing while reading a negative review, but this one made me almost choke on my tea.  That is funny! Too many cats! AS IF there could EVER be too many cats!

This isa sampler for Dear Reader Joan, who requested some pix of the Damn Garden Book.

But I thank all you readers who have suggested that I go back to my Wanderers roots and be more of a roamer in my next book, which will be somewhat easier to do than with the Damn France Book since the garden book is a travelog of the ten most unusual, interesting, dopey, intellectual, idiosyncratic, overwhelming, romantic, and inspiring gardens I’ve experienced in Africa, South America, Europe, and the USA.

But I do warn you that if you don’t like cats, you can not come with me to the special garden in Key West. Because (as I say in the Key West chapter), if you don’t like cats…





…you have no business hanging at in Key West. They are everywhere in the Conch Republic.

Thank you, Dear Commentors and Readers, for your get well wishes last week.  All the nuisance paperwork since the emergency room visit has been filed,  surgery is scheduled for next Friday, Top Cat has stocked the fridge with champagne and angel food cake for my recovery.

 

 

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How was your Labor Day holiday? Did everyone manage to stay out of the Emergency Room? Or am I the only one?

This is a picture of me after I ruptured my quadricep tendon by going for a personal best in the local Labor Day Triathelon  running up the stairs at my uncle’s cabin in upstate New York.  So you can say that I’ve had better holidays.

That’s why I’m going to tell you a story I call:

I’m Hip. Really. No, Really.

Once upon a time, last week, when it was sunny and hot and lucious — the last week of Summer . . .

I was running  errands  in the village, and since I was going out in public I’d pulled on a brown skirt so I’d look presentable (after all, I know people in this town).  OK, the skirt had an elastic waistband, and I had my worst-looking pair of sneakers on, and I thought that my sunglasses were dark enough that I wouldn’t have to put make-up on, but really: I thought I was decent enough for my public appearance.

Being out and about means that I have to cross a very busy main street in this village, which always makes me fearful. I’ve learned that you should always assume that Long Island streets are full of Long Island traffic with Long Island drivers who are: (1) busy texting, reading, doing their nails, or in such a goddam hurry that they WILL mow you down (2) drunk.

So I practice defensive walking accordingly.

I waited at the light, and on the other side on the busy main street I noticed two teenage girls also waiting to cross.  They were heartbreakingly lovely:  long glossy hair, tall and tanned,  wearing short shorts and teeny tops and giggling about something to each other. The light changed and I began my “Don’t Kill Me I’m Only Trying To Cross The Street” scurry.

I have bad knees, arthritis from all that pogoing to punk bands and various bar fights back in my hey day, and when I scurry across a busy main street I do not lope gracefully. I scurry like the crippled, barnacled, terrified-of-dying pedestrian that I am.  Only this time, I was scurrying with the soles of my sneakers and my brown skirt flapping in the breeze.  I must have looked like a horseshoe crab in a tutu.

The teenage girls on the other side of the street had not immediately noticed that the light had changed and I was  half way across the street before the teenage girls deigned to set  foot in the crosswalk, and I met them a few paces into their leisurely stroll across the road.

I had not planned to say anything at all to these girls, but before I knew it this came out of my mouth:

You better hurry!” I barked at them; “Or you won’t get across the street before the light changes!

Of course they looked at me with utter incomprehension (and a little bit of fear — who was this crazy lady barking at them in the road???) while  not breaking their stride one bit, and continued their slow amble across the road. I, from the safety of the sidewalk, had to turn back to watch how serenly those girls g-l-i-d-e-d to the other side, safely, even after the light had turned red. And then I started to laugh.

How could I have forgotten??  That  two heartbreakingly lovely teenage girls in short shorts and teeny tops with gleaming hair and tanned skin KNOW, in every cell of their beings, they KNOW that they never have to hurry to cross a busy street because traffic will ALWAYS stop — for them.

How could I have forgotten the power that beautiful girls wield?  These girls will grow up to be the beautiful girl in your college English class who can’t write a sentence — she connects all her phrases with dashes — like this — for pages at a time — which your besotted professor will hail as “epigrammatic”  while Sharla (yes, that will be her name) tosses her frosted blonde hair in insincere modesty.  They will grow up to be the beautiful co-workers who are allowed to skip a day of work when they call in “tired” (oh yes, this is true),  and the beautiful wife who gets to tear out the gorgeous French Rustic kitchen in the  mansion her husband bought for her so she could put in a new French Rustic kitchen because (as one such wife complained to me) “The old one was eleven years old!”

I had to laugh.  The only people who have to worry about getting across a busy street in one piece in life are us people who only have good personalities.

 

And what I was thinking, wearing that brown skirt. It’s like I was just begging to get hit by a bus.

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On my bookshelf, Le Road Trip is between Beatrix Potter and Serious Literature

…speaking of Le Road Trip, if you’re not ca va with Amazon.com, please feel free to leave a review at Goodreads or the interweb/social media nexus of your choice (hell…go walk down Interstate 95 screaming READ THIS BOOK!!!!!) and email me  with your address so I can put you on my exclusive, coveted ChrisHanuKwanSolstice list!!!

(Hello First Time Readers! See two weeks’ ago post to decipher this.)

So, putting my work world problems on the back burner for now, do you all realize that this is the last weekend in AUGUST already???

Oscar and Taffy, seizing the day.

There’s only a limited number of days of that Summer Je Sais Exactement Quoi left.

It’s in that certain quality of light…

Amazing grace.

…that enlightens…

Notice the bonsai in the window box!

…even as it illuminates the ordinary.

PLEASE take a walk this weekend, and keep an eye out for something EXTRAORDINARY. You never know what treasures you might find out there…

…even if it only looks like some piece of tissue-paper trash that got blown against a neighbor’s fence that got rained on and that got baked to a crisp for a few days until it was totally disintegrated by the forces of nature…

…there just might be something special in that muck:

Oh, if only I could not read English and could imagine that this fine calligraphy which is melded unto this frail fallen leaf spoke of enchantments and longing and eternal devotion and stuff.

Anything is out there, in the last light of August.

 

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Yes, I suffer as a ham-handed paint scrubber artist.

Preliminary sketches, all of them totally wrong.

I don’t care how many times I have to draw it, over and over again, I am driven by despair and low self-esteem my ideals to get it right.

I don’t care how many times I have to paint it, and paint it, and paint it, and paint it, and paint it, and paint it again, I cry bitter tears over my inadequacies steadfastly pursue my  masochistic perversion artistic vision.

I don’t stop until I get it slightly less crappy right. And do you know why?

Because of you. Yes, YOU.

You, dear readers, are the best people out there in Book World . Thank you all for answering the call to give Amazon a piece of your mind re: Le Road Trip. I am deeply touched and profoundly grateful for your wonderful feedback and guidance to the millions of people who ave yet to buy a copy of Le Road Trip. You deserve the very best reading experience that this pea brained ink-stained egomaniac humble book writer can give, so I slave over every detail on every page that I offer to you, you thoughtful caring seekers of literature.

That goes for the bilge content of this blog too. So, today, I am going to share with you one of my trade secrets. I’m going to show you show you how to paint gravel, such as that which appears in the pathways (above) of my quaint knot garden in Edinburgh:

Let’s say you have a gravel path you want to paint:

The first thing you do is make a quick wash over the entire surface like this:

When the wash is dry, cover the un-painted bits with whatever is handy — anything will do, even scrap paper. For you, dear readers, I used my prettiest purple paper:

You’ll need an old toothbrush for the next step, and you’ll get a far better result if you use a float-topped brush, like the pink one shown here, rather than the fancy pointy one (which, despite its scientific appearance, did not have the necessary aerodynamics):

Dip the tip of the toothbrush into water…

… and scrub the tip of that brush into dark paint and load it up with pigment:

You can use dark brown paint, or deep blue, if you’d like — depends on the kind of effect you want. Feel free to experiment. You’ll notice I’m using my old paints here . For certain textures or color schemes, I like the slightly muted colors I get from these cheap paints.

Now you’re going to use your index finger to flick the bristles of your toothbrush and splatter paint:

Let dry, and reveal:

Now,  when I did this technique on my garden illustration (way above) it was a bit more complicated because the spaces that I wanted to cover with splatter were very intricate. Luckily for me, I had a false start when I first tried to paint this bugger (for the sixth time):

So I took that false start and I cut it up to make a stencil to lay over y painting before I let rip with the toothbrush splatter :

Voila:

Now, having finished painting this scene for the sixth time, I have recently learned that I might have to do this all over again.

After two books that were the same trim six (9 x 8 inches), I began doing pages for my garden book in that exact same trim size.  But just last week my agent asked me to consider working in a new format.”Try making your new book smaller, like reading book size,” she said. “It’ll help booksellers [people who own book shops] shelve it, and display it.”

I’m all about making life easier for booksellers. I want to make it easy as pie for them to sell hundreds of thousands of my books. I need them to sell hundreds of thousands of my books or else I have no validation as a human being. ha ha.

So what that means is,  my next book might have considerably smaller pages. That is, the same size as 50 Shades of Gray, or Eat, Pray Love.

Hmmmmmm. I like the idea, but I don’t know if I can work in such cramped margins. This might seriously cramp my style. But, if it means more books will be sold

That black rectangle is the size of your average multi-million-seller, compared to Le Road Trip.  This might be the size of my next book.

What do you think?

 

P.S. My sister pointed out a flaw in my request for Amazon reviews last week, in that some people don’t like Amazon. I forgot to address that in this week’s post, but I will have a Plan B next week. Sorry for the inconvenience — we’ll make it right! I need everybody on the ChrisHanuKwanSolstice list!

 

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I Went Camping!

Yes, it counts as camping even if it’s only overnight. I was wondering how we would fill up the entire day up there in the foothills of the Adirondack mountains in upstate New York, out there in nature, with nary a baguette vending machine in sight. (I was pretty sure there’d be rustic versions of the pissoir all over the place.)

Here’s all you have to do to keep yourself occupied for hours and hours on end, up there in the foothills of the Adirondack mountains in upstate New York: all you have to do is get yourself —

Top Cat was the Skipper, I was Gilligan, and it was supposed to be a three hour tour. Well, it was supposed to be a 1.3 mile walk, but it turned out that it was a 1.3 mile walk just to get to the trailhead of a three-mile hike, the first two-thirds of which was uphill, the last one-third of which was downhill. I think I’ll take uphill any day (easier on the knees). I took this picture in a clearing on that first 1.3 mile saunter…

…never dreaming that I’d soon become intimately acquainted with every rocky gully and root-entwined slope of that mound on the left.

Fast forward a few hours and many existential musings on the endlessness of suffering and we arrive at our destination:

This is the place that the most bored map maker in history named Big Pond. (What? Were all the good names used up by the time the settlers got to this corner of the Adirondacks? Was there no more poetry to be wrung out of the native American languages that gave us place names such as Chicago etc???

Top Cat dove right in. I stayed on shore, wishing I were a dog splashing my heart out for the sheer joy of being a DoG.

It doesn’t look it, but these DoGs were tearing up and down the shore, pulling sticks twice their size out of the mud, chasing each other in and out of the water, leaping through the tall grass and barking to one another “It’s a GREAT day to be a DoG!!!

There were a few other groups of people there too (Big Pond does not have a lifeguard so it’s not — thankfully –“kid” friendly) and they all brought their dogs. (I have no problem sharing a swimming hole with pooches.) There was an older (my age) couple there with their dog, named Miles Davis, and another older (my age) couple there with their dog named Ruby Tuesday. No Comment.

It was getting on towards cocktail hour dinner time, so Top Cat and I headed back to the campsite. It was a thirty minute walk, on flat land, to hie our way back to the all the comforts of camping. Why? Because there’s a freaking ROAD that links our campground to *!**#  Big Pond. NO DAMN COMMENT.

Home Sweet Home:


 My chef prepares his specialty, Chien Chaud de la Turkey:

Note glass of red wine to the left of the flame.

(Yes, this is how Top Cat gets his Bordeaux to chambre when he camps.)

I swear it was hot as Hades in New York this past weekend — isn’t it the hottest Summer on record all over the US? — but we were cool as a cucumbers up in the foothills of the Adirondacks…

…which brings me to the cool breezes of ChrisHanuKwanSolstice in August:

Since 2007 it has been a tradition here at VivianWorld to send out a ChrisHanuKwanSolstice card every year to my beloved Blog Readers:

These cards are handmade by Yours Truly

…completely original and signed by Moi

…and Suitable For Framing

But this year it’s a little different.

Usually I limit my ChrisHanuKwanSolstice cards to the first 50 readers who sign up on December 1…

…but this year you can get on my list if you post a review of Le Road Trip on Amazon.com. Post your review and then send me an email at vivianswift at yahoo dot com with your mailing address (anywhere in the world) and you’re on the List for being Nice in 2012.

I think this is a fairer way than a first-come shout-out to distribute my annual card (I’m giving you all plenty of warning!!). So  review the Damn France Book now and get on the list!

As they say in France, Merci Mucho.

 

 

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When I was writing Le Road Trip I stayed away from traveling to Paris because I didn’t want any new information or experiences to corrupt the specific memories I was trying to pin down in my Damn France Book. But that didn’t stop me from gathering my Wish List, my Must Do List of people, places, and things I have to check out the next time I’m en ville. Top of the list: this baguette vending machine (above).

And I want to see the last pissoir in Paris (on theBoulevard Arago, near the famed La Sante prison, 14th arr.).

For now, though, for my daydreaming, I’ve been revisiting my favorite Paris book, Paris Cafe, Le Select Crowd by Rick Tulka.

Rick is a MAD magazine staffer who lives in Paris and hangs out, every day, at Le Cafe Select.

He brings his sketch book with him and “works” at the cafe.

I don’t know if I am more envious of his supreme skill…

…or of the fact that his “office” serves champagne.

Self Portrait by Rick Tulka, at “work” in his “office”.

If you could use a little Paris in your life today, check out Rick and Paris Cafe, The Select Crowd.

But then again, I have cats in my office.

Which is a lot like having an endless flow of champagne in the office, except for the fun, the bubbly, and the good tasting part.

Oh, that little painting of a Japanese tea house that Coco is ignoring?

Yes, that’s a peek at some stuff I’m going for the garden book. Now, I like tea houses…but I detest macha tea (the powdered green stuff they serve in the Japanese tea ceremony) so I’ve never bothered to sit in on this particular cultural event. I’m probably missing out on a fascinating and deeply moving esthetic experience…or not. My poll for the day is: If you had a choice, would you go for the Tea Ceremony, or Champagne at a Paris Cafe?

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I had a book event to do in Music City last week, and afterwards Top Cat and I took the scenic route between Nashville and Asheville on scenic interstate 441 takes you through Pigeon Forge, TN.

Pigeon Forge is the Atlantic City Boardwalk of the Great Smoky Mountains, so Top Cat and I felt right at home.

Pigeon Forge is named for the forge on the Pigeon River nearby. It was so hot in Tennesse — 97 humid degrees — that  if this iceberg had been real I would have thrown myself all over it:

Dollywood was within spitting distance, but we were too damn hot and bothered to make a side trip just so we could show off our big city irony.  The highway traffic was amusement enough, watching the passing big rigs haul livestock, produce, flammable liquids, and other big rigs:

And then we entered the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I took this shot of low, cool, misty clouds…

…and didn’t even notice this guy celebrating the drop in temperature until I reviewed the pictures at home:

But I did notice this adorable Indian-American family pile out of their RV, and I hollered at Top Cat, “Pull over! Pull over! Pull over!!!!” And I pretended I was taking photos because I was thrilled with the scenery, which I was, of course.

Think about being stuck in an RV on a road trip with your pain-in-the-ass in-laws and assorted snot-nosed teenaged-siblings. Think about  what it would take to get your motley crew to agree to go along with a sight gag like this. Whoever you Sub-Continental Indian-American peoples are, I LOVE YOU.

The major tourist attraction in Asheville, North Carolina is the Vanderbilt pile, called Biltmore, the largest private family home in America:

This is the back porch (yeah, it has gargoyles):

This is the 8,000 acre back yard:

This is a corner of the formal gardens:

I thought it was odd that there was no way to view this parterre as it is supposed to be seen, that is, from above (so you can appreciate the intricate patterns that the flower beds make). Luckily, in Asheville’s downtown, there’s a compensating aerial view of Beautiful Buncombe County, North Carolina, from the Sky Bar:

If I had figured out, on Monday night, that the Sky Bar would be closed on Tuesday, this would have been a stunning photo of the glorious Monday evening sun set over the Great Smoky Mountains at 8:15 pm, instead of a bright Tuesday afternoon at 4 o’clock shot. For missing my opportunity for an Asheville Sun Set, I consoled myself with a visit to Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar, the best damn bookstore in the world:

This ain’t the half of it. I took more pictures of the Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar than Biltmore. In a future post I will show you every nook of this lovable, private, cavernous, libertarian, elegant, and homey cathedral of books and booze because if there’s a book store in Heaven, it looks like the Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar. On the other bouqiniste forum….

…I thought it was odd that Asheville, a thoroughly charming city, had such a cheerless public library:

I wonder if, by making the public library look like the IBM Home Office, it’s to discourage loitering by the multitudes of hippies that are to be found in every inch of downtown Asheville? [This is Pritchard Square, below, home of Asheville’s 24-hour, 7-day Drum Circle, of which I was too polite to take pix of the really seedy street people to be found here.]

Top Cat and I were scouting Asheville as a possible venue for our deuxieme acte, so we spent four hours looking at properties with a real estate agent who kindly drove us from one end of Greater Asheville to the other. Here’s the strangest thing about Asheville:

At a red light on Swannanoa River Road, we (Top Cat, Me, and the Real Estate Lady)  pulled up behind an Oldsmobile being driven (more like being absent-mindedly steered) by a little old lady who seemed to be lost in thought about the good old days when Bing Crosby ruled the Hit Parade. The light turned green, and the old gal didn’t budge, so after two whole seconds I said to our real estate guide, “I think you better honk your horn and wake that lady up.”

The real estate agent (Janice), a gorgeous native of the gracious south, said to me in her sugar-sweet lilt, “Oh, we don’t honk horns here. We’ll just wait until she notices the  green light.”

Several thoughts went through my mind at this point.

The one that made me look least like an asshole was: Hey! I only have one life to live and I’ll be damned if I’m going to waste precious seconds of it coddling …

…come to think of it, all of my thoughts made me look like an asshole.

Afterwards, Top Cat and I went to lunch at Asheville Public Restaurant and I had second thoughts…I could live in a place where they make chandeliers out of Coke bottles:

What surprised me was that even in this very hip and trendy Asheville bistro, the menu was heavy with pork products. Southern people love their ham and bacon, no matter how Occupy Wall Street their esthetics might look. Oh lordy, I need my south-of-the Mason-Dixon-line readers to guide me: what’s a person to do in Dixie when she don’t eat pork????  Do y’all just drink dinner??? [I could live with that.]

And Sandra, honey, I know you were just having a bad day when you commented on my last week’s post about Nashville when you told me to keep my sorry ass away from Music City ever again [see last Friday’s Comments]. I raise my glass [of surprisingly good estate wine, seeing as it was baked on the tarmac of Nashville airport for nine hours] to you, you cranky old fussbudget native of Nashville, bless your heart.

 

 

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This is me, at Parnassus Books in Nashville, last Saturday — Bastille Day — yakking about Le Road Trip:

The author takes a minute to familiarize herself with her own book, in front of a bewildered audience.

I hope nobody noticed my crappy Gap trousers that I had to wear because I forgot to pack my dressy grey linen slacks. Luckily, though, somebody remembered to pack their screaming kid and bring it to Parnassus so that it could wail its little heart out just behind me and that blue book shelf.

My official photographer [Top Cat] is a perfect husband, but he has his drawbacks as a portraitist. He seems to have  knack for getting photos of me with my eyes closed …

I was saving this face for my Nobel Prize acceptance speech, but Nashville’s close enough.

or my mouth hanging open…

The author has just been informed that there is no bar at this book store.

… or worse:

Note the crowds not listening to me at all in the background.

I can never get over my amazement that people I don’t even KNOW will come out to meet me and have me sign copies of my books and share their own travel stores with me. Thank you, dearest Southern Readers, for the pleasure of your company at Parnassus Books! Special thanks to Amy, who came all the way from Indiana and sat in the front row! There is a special place in Heaven for people who come to book events and sit in the front row, for which me and every book-eventing-author are eternally grateful:

But it was not all work and no play in Nashville, no sir. Top Cat and I also got to live it up in Music City, the only ville in America that can claim to have a Batman Building: 

 

That’s what the locals call the ATT building that dominates the silhouette of their downtown.

That red brick structure on the left is the Ryman Auditorium, the original Grand Ole Opry. It’s a landmark, is all I’m saying.

It was pouring rain, I mean monsoon-quality precipitation, that afternoon:

 

It occurs  to me that Nashville is probably the outer (northern) American limit of were you can wear a cowboy hat and not have people judge you.  The good thing is, that if it hadn’t been so sopping wet outside, we wouldn’t have stopped into the Tennessee State Museum

…and we wouldn’t have known that the 1843 election deserves its own diorama. You know the 1843 national election, right? The one that saw James K. Polk of Tennessee become the 11th President of the United Sates?  Yeah, that one. No, me neither.

If not for the pouring rain, we would never have seen  Andrew Jackson‘s wine glass (Andrew is the more famous President from Tennessee):

History has judged boring old sober-sides James K. Polk to be one of America’s greatest presidents, yet it is Andrew Jackson, our 7th President, who has his face on our $20 bill all for being dashing and sexy and populist.  Go figure.

The museum also had lots of portraits of notable Tennessee citizens. I loved many of them but this picture is practically a catalog of tasteful mid-19th century jewelry, and I’m still an antique jewelry historian deep down, so that’s why I’m showing you this picture and not the ones with weird looking kids in them.

I also had to try out the town’s famous French bakery:

Name of bakery withheld for its own protection.

The place was packed because of this:

Nashville loves Bastille Day!!!!   So I bought four macarons to go, and the first one I tasted was so vile that I just threw the other three in the trash. Well, at least Nashville’s heart is in the right place. And you have to forgive a city that can give you this

…just as the sun is going down!  Everybody in Nashville loves the sun sets, because everybody knows that Nashville really gets going after dark…

…because:

Music Row (downtown) glows in the black of a Southern night …

 

 

…and the party is already in full swing at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge

…where you can squeeze into the crowd to hear local musicians hop on stage for a few songs…

…or you can mosey a few doors down to where there’s a dance floor and try out your best honky-tonk moves:

 

And then, all too soon, it’s time to pack up and head out to the airport to wait out a nine-hour flight delay. Terrible rain storms in New York City kept all NYC-bound luggage on the ground there at Nashville’s delightful international airport tarmac, in 100-degree Tennessee heat. That’s my brown bag there, just beneath the tip of our plane’s wing. I was watching it carefully, wondering if that bottle of Biltmore white wine I’d packed was going to explode from being baked all day long.

Oh, did I forget to tell you about our side trip to Asheville, North Carolina, and my walk around the Vanderbilt gardens of Biltmore mansion?   I’ll have to catch you up on that with next Friday’s post…for now, we’re watching the sun set over the Nashville skyline…

…and saying Farewell to wonderful Music City

…and coming home to rapturous greetings from our devoted herd of loving cats:

Lickety and Taffy, overjoyed that we’re back.

 

Candy, who can hardly contain her excitement.

 

Dudley and his high regard for all we mean to him.

 

Oscar’s embarrassing show of emotion.

 

Bibs is thinking…”You look familiar. Aren’t you the people who bring me dinner? WAIT!! DID I MISS DINNER!?!?!?!?”

**** KILL ME NOW: I just noticed today, July  20, that Amazon.com is selling Le Road Trip for a whopping $53.86. Which explains why sales have dropped off lately…

The Bloomsbury crew is trying to fix this with the Great and Powerful Oz/azon but until the remedy with the ruby slippers works: the books costs a mere $24.00!!!! Order it from your local independent book store!!!!

****THIS JUST IN****

My publisher, Bloomsbury, tells me that Le Road Trip has sold out of its first printing and the second printing has not yet arrived in Amazon warehouses, so until those new books arrive the scalper’s price for my book is, indeed, $53.86. I cannot apologize enough for this. Don’t hate me for writing a book that appears to cost Fifty-Three Damn Dollars.

****SATURDAY UPDATE (July 21, 2012)****

Amazon just got re-stocked. Le Road Trip s now AVAILABLE.

Whew.

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Which is harder: making bread…

or painting it?

I’ve never baked a loaf of bread, but I can tell you that painting it isn’t a piece of cake.

For me, it took a lot of trial and error.  For one thing, you don’t want your French breads looking as if they are defying gravity:

And neither do you want your French breads too bien cuit:

You have to learn to make your French breads with a light touch:

You also want to get that golden-brown crust just right:

And when it comes to your sign you want to use authentic French lettering, bien sur. Good thing that the words LE PAIN

…are incorporated in this classic Hector Guimard METRO sign (it looks like the St-Michel entrance to me, captured on the cover of this vintage album of the 1960s):

Bur when it comes to scribbling  your love of French breads and croissants…

…it helps to have a cheat sheet handy:

Next week I’ll be checking out the French bread of Nashville. Yes, that Nashville, the one in Tennesse. Mais oui — you can get great French bread in Nashville!

You can find a little corner of France here at Provence Breads and Cafe in historic Hillsboro Village in Nashville (1705 21st Ave. South).

And just around the corner you can join me in Nashville for a Bastille Day wine-and-book talk, Saturday July 14,  2-4pm at Parnassus Books at 3900 Hillsboro Pike.

And if the heat wave is still on, we’ll see if it’s true that it’s so hot in Nashville that you can bake bread on the sidewalk. And when I say “bake bread” I mean “drink lots of wine“, and when I say “on the sidewalk” I mean “in the cool comfort of AC and smart company at one of America’s classiest book stores“.

Are you in???

 

 

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